Climate Science Glossary

Term Lookup

Enter a term in the search box to find its definition.


Use the controls in the far right panel to increase or decrease the number of terms automatically displayed (or to completely turn that feature off).

Term Lookup


All IPCC definitions taken from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Annex I, Glossary, pp. 941-954. Cambridge University Press.

Home Arguments Software Resources Comments The Consensus Project Translations About Support

Twitter Facebook YouTube Pinterest MeWe

RSS Posts RSS Comments Email Subscribe

Climate's changed before
It's the sun
It's not bad
There is no consensus
It's cooling
Models are unreliable
Temp record is unreliable
Animals and plants can adapt
It hasn't warmed since 1998
Antarctica is gaining ice
View All Arguments...

New? Register here
Forgot your password?

Latest Posts


Explaining climate change science & rebutting global warming misinformation

Global warming is real and human-caused. It is leading to large-scale climate change. Under the guise of climate "skepticism", the public is bombarded with misinformation that casts doubt on the reality of human-caused global warming. This website gets skeptical about global warming "skepticism".

Our mission is simple: debunk climate misinformation by presenting peer-reviewed science and explaining the techniques of science denial.


Why chase tornadoes? It’s ‘the wonder of nature’

Posted on 5 July 2022 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Charlie Randall

A tribute to storm chasers

At its core, storm chasing is an extremely dangerous pursuit, as witness several events in late April and early May: Some storm chasers were killed or severely injured, not from a tornado directly, but as a result of the countless hours of driving to successfully encounter and chase a storm across the landscape. Three up-and-coming meteorology students from the University of Oklahoma lost their lives after a horrific accident near the Kansas/Oklahoma border. Soon afterward, a crash in Minnesota claimed the life of a meteorologist who had travelled all the way from Mexico to chase, and a well-known academic was seriously injured. Chasers are, after all, a small and tightly knit community dedicated to following their passions and resistant to thoughts of shying away from a storm.

These early-season tragedies, so close together and striking such passionate lovers of weather, have shaken the storm-chaser community, sparking dialog, soul-searching, and, for those who knew them personally, painful sorrow and fond memories.

I hope the points captured in this post, and other parts of this ongoing series, serve as a tribute to and remembrance of these individuals and their commitments to a better understanding of these violent, yet captivating, severe weather events…. Charlie Randall


ON THE ROAD ACROSS THE AMERICAN MIDWEST – My mother commented recently how surprised she is by my obsession with storms and tornadoes given how utterly terrified I was of them as a child.

I remember bits and pieces of this fear, especially involving nighttime lightning and thunder, but not to the degree she describes. A face of sheer terror and confusion greeted her any time the cacophonous ripping of air molecules radiated its show of sound and light through our house in rural Ontario. I’d curl up on her lap and bury my head in her shoulders doing whatever I could to escape the chaos. But somewhere along the way, that fear transitioned into awe. I’ve read of others going through such a remarkable transition, and even though I can’t remember exactly when it happened, a few instances do stick out.

Lightning whips off the CN Tower in Toronto, 2013.



SkS Analogy 4 - Ocean Time Lag

Posted on 4 July 2022 by Evan

This is an update to a previous analogy. The original version is here.

Tag Line

Greenhouse gases (GHGs) determine amount of warming, but oceans delay the warming.

Elevator Statement

Try this thought experiment.

  • Imagine a pot that holds 8 liters.
  • Suspend a thermometer from the the lid so that it hangs in the middle of the pot.
  • Put the pot on the stove empty, with no water.
  • Turn the burner on very low heat.
  • Measure the time it takes for the thermometer to reach 60°C (about 140°F).

To see how water delays the warming, try this thought experiment.

  • Using the same pot and stove as before, fill the pot with water.
  • Place it on the stove on the same, very low heat.
  • Measure the time it takes for the thermometer to reach 60°C (about 140°F).

How much longer does it take to reach 60°C (about 140°F) with water instead of air in the pot? A lot longer!

The longer time required to heat a pot of water than a pot of air explains why there is a delay between GHG emissions and a rise in temperature of the atmosphere: the oceans take a long time to warm up. This is why scientists, such as James Hansen, refer to global warming as an inter-generational issue, because the time lag means that the heating due to our emissions are only fully felt by later generations.



2022 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #26

Posted on 3 July 2022 by BaerbelW

Listing of articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, June 26, 2022 through Sat, July 2, 2022.

The following articles sparked above average interest during the week (bolded articles are from SkS authors): Greta Thunberg makes surprise appearance at Glastonbury festival, Climate Confusion, Exxon CEO says no new gas cars globally by 2040, goes wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing about CO2Public hugely underestimate scientific consensus on climate change, and Skeptical Science New Research for Week #26 2022.

Articles Linked to on Facebook



Skeptical Science New Research for Week #26 2022

Posted on 30 June 2022 by Doug Bostrom, Marc Kodack

Looking into a distant mirror

The academic publishing process is notoriously stately. Events in the rest of the world happen at their own swift pace as a given article makes its way through the publication pipeline. In the case of  Russian climate scepticism: an understudied case, authors Teresa Ashe & Marianna Poberezhskaya submitted their work in April of last year, in what is beginning to seem like a different geopolitical era. Meanwhile, our species must simultaneously keep many balls in the air; our attention has many genuine demands. It would be a genuine shame if these authors' unique contribution was overlooked in the hurly-burly. 

Publishing in Climatic Change as part of a topical collectionAshe & Poberezhskaya review and draw together the relatively sparse literature on climate skepticism in Russia. The local context leads to stark differences from what many of us in the United States may find famiilar, but also a few similarities. Self-appointed "think tanks" of the kind so enthusiastically built and crafted for pushing agendas in the United States are almost absent, made unnecessary by a tight interlock between large energy enterprises and the Russian government. On the other hand, repurposed physicists in both countries have played key roles in fostering public ignorance by relying on their special authority to offer advice on things of which they're ignorant. NGOs operate at their peril; a change in the mood of government is potentially quite dangerous.

Leaving aside the local idiosyncrasies of Russia's grasp of anthropogenic climate change, because it strikes many comparisons between Russia and the US needing supporting citations this paper can serve as a mini-education about climate skepticism in both countries. Beyond that, it's of course encouraging to see how a state so heavily dependent on fossil fuels still has a very substantial population amenable to facts.

Other notables:

Rapid fragmentation of Thwaites Eastern Ice Shelf. Acceleration of an ice shelf ending in 2006 created an injury and scar that is now becoming apparent, two decades after the original insult began. The mechanism joins two other major contributors hastening the demise of this ice shelf. 

Microplastics have light-absorbing ability to enhance cryospheric meltingIt appears that we may be attacking subaerial ice (glaciers, ice sheets, sea ice) with mutually reinforcing multiple weapons. The authors point out that according to what we know of physics, microplastics should certainly be having negative effects on ice— but confirmation needs field work. 

Fast Action on Short-lived Climate Pollutants and Nature-based Solutions to Help Countries Meet Carbon Neutrality Goals Researchers calculate that by paying attention to a number of small and more easily pulled levers of climate control, we can partially ameliorate our extremely tardy grappling with the main problem behind climate change, effectively buy back some preicious time we've wasted. This time is priced quite cheaply.

Environmental trade-offs of direct air capture technologies in climate change mitigation toward 2100. Authors find that direct air carbon capture and storage (DACCS) is now more or less a mandatory requirement. DACCS is also not a silver bullet in terrms of material trades needed to make it a reality, and will be eye-poppingly energy intensive in operation (not surprising, given the offending chemistry causing the need for DACCS). 

All of the above open access and free to read. Also don't miss our weekly collection of government and NGO reports, here. 

143 articles in 48 journals by 886 contributing authors 

Physical science of climate change, effects

Strong ocean/sea-ice contrasts observed in satellite-derived ice crystal number concentrations in Arctic ice boundary-layer clouds
Papakonstantinou?Presvelou et al., Geophysical Research Letters, Open Access pdf 10.1029/2022gl098207

Mechanisms of Ocean Heat Uptake along and across Isopycnals
Clément et al., Journal of Climate, Open Access pdf 10.1175/jcli-d-21-0793.1

Observations of climate change, effects

Recent Increase in the Occurrence of Snow Droughts Followed by Extreme Heatwaves in a Warmer World
Li & Wang, Geophysical Research Letters, 10.1029/2022gl099925



How to stay cool in hot weather

Posted on 29 June 2022 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Neha Pathak

When spring creeps around the corner, pediatrician Aaron Bernstein starts counseling his Boston-area patients and their families about extreme heat action plans.

“The first heat wave of the year is routinely the most harmful,” says Bernstein, who also directs Harvard’s Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment. He wants patients to start planning early about how they are going to stay safe when the mercury rises.

He draws on his experiences as a medical student in Chicago in 1995, when an unexpected heat wave blistered the city. More than 700 people died, many of them low-income, elderly residents without air conditioning.

The Chicago heat wave was considered a historic event – a disastrous anomaly – but as the world warms, deadly heat waves have become more commonplace. In southern Europe in 2003, Russia in 2010, the Pacific Northwest in 2021India and Pakistan in 2022, and elsewhere, hundreds to tens of thousands of people have perished during extreme heat events.

Heat waves are getting worse

The scientific consensus is clear: Climate change will continue to cause record-breaking temperatures that are more frequent, more intense, and longer-lasting.

“The heat of the current era is unprecedented in our species history,” Bernstein says. “That’s why we have particular concern about our body’s physiological ability to deal with the kinds of heat we’re dealing with.”

But Kristie Ebi, a University of Washington climate and health researcher, says it’s critical to recognize that hospitalizations and deaths related to heat are preventable.

Prevention starts with a recognition of when the temperature is getting too hot to handle, Ebi explains. You may have a different limit based on your age, health conditions, and environment.

Heat-related deaths graphic



How to inoculate yourself against misinformation

Posted on 28 June 2022 by Guest Author

TiP-LogoThis is a re-post from the Thinking is Power website maintained by Melanie Trecek-King where she regularly writes about many aspects of critical thinking in an effort to provide accessible and engaging critical thinking information to the general public. Please see this overview to find links to other reposts from Thinking is Power.


We are drowning in misinformation. From celebrities selling their favorite diets and supplements online, to fringe medical “professionals” hawking pseudoscientific treatments on social media, to conspiracy theorists enticing followers down the rabbit hole on youtube, it’s nearly impossible to avoid exposure. 

We use information to make decisions about everything from our health to how we vote, so being misled by misinformation can cause real harm. Not only is someone usually trying to sell us something, falling for fake “cures” can literally be deadly. 

While protecting ourselves from misinformation is essential, trying to debunk each and every false claim after it pops up can feel like an overwhelming and endless game of Whac-A-Mole. (Who has the time? Or the energy?)

The secret to protecting yourself from misinformation: A healthy mental immune system.

Thankfully, science has found a solution: inoculation theory. Similar to how a vaccine builds immunity to a pathogen by exposing our bodies to a weakened form of the pathogen, we can build immunity to misinformation by exposing our minds to a weakened form of misinformation. 



Climate Confusion

Posted on 27 June 2022 by Evan

Climate Confusion

I periodically see the phrase, "when we reach net-zero emissions," as though it's a foregone conclusion. It is not. What if the best we can do over the next 100 years is no better than stabilizing CO2 concentration. What then?

Current climate models indicate that future warming is a function only of future emissions, and not current atmospheric CO2 concentration (read here). However, if CO2 stabilization is the best we can do, then the minimum warming we will experience is defined by current CO2 concentrations. These two views are compatible, because to stabilize CO2 concentration at current levels and hold it there over the next 100 year requires some level of continuing emissions. CO2 stabilization therefore implies some level of future emissions that would be unavoidable. A world where the best we do is to stabilize CO2 has, for all intents and purposes, "warming in the pipeline", something that does not occur if and when we reach net-zero emissions.

Some people seem so confident that we will achieve net-zero emissions that they no longer consider current CO2 concentrations to represent a minimum commitment temperature. This is dangerous. Considering that as of 2022 CO2 is still accelerating upwards, it is prudent to consider what happens if the best we can do is CO2 stabilization.

Here is the specific event that prompted me to write this piece.

I recently used Fig. 1 in one of my posts. The top curve shows the expected warming corresponding to measured atmospheric CO2 concentrations for an Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity (ECS) = 3ºC/doubling CO2. The bottom curve shows measured temperature anomalies. The dotted line labeled "Ocean Time Lag" indicates that the oceans delay the warming because of the time required to heat up the top layers of the oceans. This plot shows measured data only: there are no modeling results, other than showing expected warming based on ECS = 3ºC/doubling CO2

Graphs of expected warming for ECS = 3 and another graph showing measured warming up to 2021

Figure 1. Top curve (solid orange points) shows expected warming corresponding to atmospheric CO2 concentration (shown by the open circles) and an ECS of 3ºC/doubling CO2. The bottom curve shows the GISS measured Land-Ocean temperature anomalies (read here).

In response, a reader commented



2022 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #25

Posted on 26 June 2022 by BaerbelW

Listing of articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, June 19, 2022 through Sat, June 24, 2022.

The following articles sparked above average interest during the week (bolded articles are from SkS authors): Skeptical Science New Research for Week #25 2022, To stop climate change, regulate carbon as a toxic substance, ‘Fun in the sun’ photos are a dangerous distraction from the reality of climate breakdown, and Impact of reading about climate science goes away almost instantly.

Articles Linked to on Facebook



Skeptical Science New Research for Week #25 2022

Posted on 23 June 2022 by Doug Bostrom, Marc Kodack

Stashing renewable energy

Do a little internet sleuthing on renewable energy via your favorite search engine and you'll likely notice some honest critique and— much more— dishonest misinformation (aka disinformation) to the effect that photovoltaic and wind generation are twitchy, fickle energy supplies, over-abundant in some periods and absent in others. There's a grain of truth to this— and superficially it sounds (conveniently, for the disinformation artist) hopeless, if we pretend that we're not very clever and that we are missing our actual, abundant population of skilled and enthusiastic engineers. "Superficial" is perfectly useful, decent treatment when one's objective is to delay progress, of course.

In reality, what is formally known as "variable renewable energy" (VRE) is a proving to be an enjoyable challenge for imaginative, creative engineers (a chronically restless group). Already a lot of fun has been had in this department. There's the old and proven "pumped hydro" storage technique, accompanied to some extent by pure thermal as well as electrochemical thermal batteries. As various lithium chemistries have been tamed, we're seeing older methods joined by more recently refined electrochemical implementations, both directly and increasingly in reversible motive power (EV) storage. But there are other more subtle ways of tucking away energy for use later, some of them not very intuitive, such as "overcooling" deep cold storage facilities. The latter approach begins to resemble a form of energy algebra, with negatives canceling positives and terms being rearranged on either side of "=" to get nifty results.

"Storing" energy by overcooling foodstuffs is simple and practically free; fundamentally, banking the equivalent of kilowatt-hours in the mass of foodstuffs only needs bringing some information about electrical grid status to cold storage facility thermostats. It's almost only down to a change in habits, and this seems to be emerging as a common feature of indirect energy storage. 

In  Simulated co-optimization of renewable energy and desalination systems in Neom, Saudi Arabia Riera et al. explore another imaginative means of "storing" renewable energy: as fresh water. Currently desalinization and water reuse consumes some 1% of global electricity production. Energy consumption for production of fresh water is expected to double over the next 18 years. In highly populated, arid parts of the planet desalinization is a major consumer of generation capacity, reaching 20%, and here there is opportunity for engineering athletics, a jungle gym of machinery, systems and numbers to swing from.

Riera and crew produce an achievable-in-the-real-world model for systems integration of renewable energy powered desalinization in a particular challenging geographic context. In the scenario in question, stored desalinated water becomes a significant indirect means of energy storage. Depending on the objectives and situation of the system, this storage can be increased or shrunk as needed to help make the whole system economically and— in practical terms— operationally viable.

It's worth noting that somewhat akin (but not quite as dramatically cheap) to the earlier example of storing energy in refrigeration systems, tankage for desalinated water is one of the least expensive components of the system Riera's model describes. It's potentially very "deep" storage; an integrated system could build up a significant amount of kilowatt-equivalent-hours of energy available for other purposes in times of system stress, in the form of water that doesn't need to be desalinated "now."

What's the use of this research?  Generation system operators can look at this model and make more informed, more confident, better decisions about plant investment. The result is swifter and larger uptake of renewable energy sources and faster retirement of fossil fuels, and a technically more robust and competent generation suite. 

"Energy storage" in the form of a (vital) physical product is a great card to have in our hand, and seeing energy storage potential from this new perspective opens up possibilities. The highly comprehensive, parametrically adjustable model described in the paper is a sharp tool to add to our kit.

There's lots more to explore in energy storage and ample engineering talent on tap; we'll certainly be improving our abilities in the "tuck it away in non-obvious places" category as we figure out how to project our civilization beyond a handful of decades. 

Other notables

Improved Quantification of the Rate of Ocean Warming. Increasing skill with analytical methods allows us to sharpen our focus on a key metric governing our fate. The authors find ocean warming over our whole globe undergoing "robust acceleration" over the 1958-2020 period. Specifically, "0 to 0.06 ± 0.08 W m−2 for 1958–73 to 0.58 ± 0.08 W m−2 for 2003–18." The same signal is contemporaneous over all four major ocean basins; internal variability can be dismissed as a significant factor. 

Strong increase in thawing of subsea permafrost in the 22nd century caused by anthropogenic climate change. What's the big deal about some submerged ice melting away? This, perhaps.  We're rapidly dumping pieces of an enormous transdisciplinary accounting puzzle into plain view. Synthesis will reveal how badly our initial belch of CO2 will amplify itself. There are already enough pieces joined up to see a picture we shouldn't ignore.

Perceptions and correspondence of climate change beliefs and behavior among romantic couples. Prepare to have your intutions confirmed— or not.

A climate policy revolution: what the science of complexity reveals about saving our planet. Review of a [recently published] book by influential expert on complexity, resilience and energy transition Roland Kupers delineates rapid, systemic changes down to the level of individual behaviors that plausibly might reverse our course to "not living up to our potential" as a species. The scenario of technical competence depicted is also arguably guaranteed to ignite fearful reactions in a broad swath of our population.  

All of the above open access and free to read. Also don't miss our government/NGO reports section, here. 

122 articles in 40 journals by 561 contributing authors

Observations of climate change, effects

Increased extreme warming events and the differences in the observed hydrothermal responses of the active layer to these events in China’s permafrost regions
Zhu et al., Climate Dynamics, 10.1007/s00382-022-06155-x

Differential signal of change among multiple components of West African rainfall
Obarein & Lee Lee, Theoretical and Applied Climatology, Open Access pdf 10.1007/s00704-022-04052-1

Modulation of the interdecadal variation of atmospheric background flow on the recent recovery of the EAWM during the 2000s and its link with North Atlantic–Arctic warming
Zhang et al., Climate Dynamics, 10.1007/s00382-022-06152-0

Strengthening impacts of spring sea surface temperature in the north tropical Atlantic on Indian Ocean dipole after the mid-1980s
Zhang et al., Climate Dynamics, Open Access pdf 10.1007/s00382-021-06128-6

Recent marine heatwaves in the North Pacific warming pool can be attributed to rising atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases
Barkhordarian et al., Communications Earth & Environment, Open Access pdf 10.1038/s43247-022-00461-2



What to expect during the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season

Posted on 22 June 2022 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Samantha Harrington

It’s officially hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean, and it’s expected to be an active one. In a webinar on Friday, June 3, Eye on the Storm meterologists Jeff Masters and Bob Henson presented a preview of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season. Here’s what we learned:

  • The Atlantic is expected to have an active hurricane season this year. Colorado State University scientists predict 20 named storms and 10 hurricanes, including five major hurricanes. NOAA’s forecast calls for slightly fewer storms but still puts the odds of an above-average Atlantic hurricane season at 65%. The waters of the Gulf of Mexico are warm, which means storms there will have plenty of fuel. 



Grappling with scientific understanding of tornadoes and climate change

Posted on 21 June 2022 by greenman3610

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Peter Sinclair

Weather and climate experts cited in this month’s Yale Climate Connections video weigh in on the knowns, unknowns, and uncertainties involving the relationship of tornadoes and climate change.

From academic researchers comes a shared view that tornado outbreaks, intensity, timing, and location are not easily resolved in climate models. But they generally agree that tornadoes appear to be occurring more eastward and somewhat north of long-time tornado hotspot states such as Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Midwestern parts of the U.S. – including states such as Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Missouri – are attracting more than their usual share of tornadoes. And the May 20 tornado that hit hard the Michigan town of Gaylord, about 230 miles northwest of Detroit, is but one recent reference point.



What it would take for U.S. to meet its Paris commitment

Posted on 20 June 2022 by dana1981

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections

The Biden administration in April 2021 dramatically ratcheted up the country’s greenhouse gas emissions reductions pledge under the Paris target, also known as its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).

The Obama administration in 2014 had announced a commitment to cut U.S. emissions 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. The Trump administration formally withdrew the country from the Paris agreement in late 2020, but the Biden administration, upon taking office in January 2021, swiftly reversed that move and subsequently pledged to cut U.S. emissions 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2030.

Based on current emissions trends and climate policies, however, the U.S. is not on track to meet even the Obama administration’s commitment, let alone its new and far more ambitious NDC. With two-thirds of the time between 2005 and 2030 having passed, national emissions today are only about 15% lower than the 2005 levels. In fact, carbon pollution rates had been rising during the Trump administration’s tenure until the COVID pandemic struck.

With eight years remaining before the looming 2030 deadline, authors of a new study in the journal Science examine how seven energy system model scenarios envision the U.S.’s ramping up efforts to meet its NDC. In short, achieving its commitment would require efforts to dramatically accelerate the deployment of solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles (EVs), trees, heat pumps, insulation, and measures to significantly curb the emissions of other potent greenhouse gases like methane.

What it would take to meet the Biden pledge

The U.S. released 6.6 billion tons (gigatons, or Gt) of carbon dioxide (CO2)-equivalent greenhouse gases in 2005, about 5.6 Gt in pre-pandemic 2019, and has pledged not to exceed 3.3 Gt of emissions in 2030. That objective means the U.S. needs to reduce its annual emissions a further 2.3 Gt in the next eight years. The Science study incorporated the results of seven separate energy system modeling scenarios that tried to project how the U.S. could achieve that goal:



2022 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #24

Posted on 19 June 2022 by BaerbelW

Listing of articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, June 12, 2022 through Sat, June 18, 2022.

The following articles sparked above average interest during the week (bolded articles are from SkS authors): White lies: Daily Telegraph’s excitement over bumper snow season skates over facts, Skeptical Science tackles 'discourses of climate delay' and 'solutions denial', How cities can fight climate change, A durable U.S. climate strategy … or a house of cards?, and Skeptical Science New Research for Week #24 2022.

Articles Linked to on Facebook



Skeptical Science tackles 'discourses of climate delay' and 'solutions denial'

Posted on 17 June 2022 by Doug Bostrom

Where we've been

Time flies. This coming summer will mark 15 years of Skeptical Science focusing its effort on "traditional" climate science denial. Leaving aside frivolities,  we've devoted most of our effort to combatting "serious" denial falling into a handful of broad categories of fairly crisp misconceptions: "radiative physics is wrong," "geophysics is wrong," "modeling of geophysical systems is impossible," or "we're unable to measure geophysical behavior of the planet."

The roots of progress in handling our climate problem remain planted in scientific research, and so Skeptical Science has grounded our collection of rebuttals in academic research relevant and responsive to specific misconceptions. 

All of this activity has been centered on a single enduring objective by a narrow interest group, the pursuit of which creates a dire conflict. The purpose of the fossil fuel industry is to monetize fossil fuel resources. Every year that goes by without modernizing our energy systems past a fossilized condition affords more monetization. Delay is profit. This laser-focus on financial results and resultant requirement to arrest progress is in direct conflict with what's healthy for our planet and everything living upon it.

Societal responses to our fossil fuel problem require replies in public policy and governance. This ignites objections rooted in political ideology, bringing more money and energy to arguing for remaining stuck with Victorian-era energy thinking. Research tells us that political ideology is a major impetus for climate science denial. This is a potent catalyst for amplifying deceptive messaging in favor of special interests and has prolonged our paralysis over climate change. 

Reflected in everything we do, Skeptical Science's mission— our purpose— is to help resolve the conflict  between fossil fuels and our need for progress, by anchoring disagreements in the science describing our reality. We directly address intentionally fostered misunderstandings of climate science, and expose ideologically-motivated disagreement masquerading as scientific disputes. We do this by distilling academic research and packaging it in articles intelligible for a general audience. Not only can we directly answer questions in this way, but also our users can more efficiently use their own time by not wasting it on duplicative effort— thereby amplifying their own positive effect.

Where we are now

From various web access statistics Skeptical Science sees how  (somewhat mind-bogglingly)  traditional climate fables live on, seemingly indestructible. As a single example, every day hundreds of people read here at Skeptical Science that the 2nd law of thermodynamics does not contradict the effect of increasing CO2 in our atmosphere.  Our encyclopedic roster of rebuttals to climate science avoidance continues to be useful, unfortunately.

But— increasingly— we see new challenges of denial and delay emerging and gaining prominence. Perhaps thanks to massive collective effort and some genuine success communicating truth about our role in Earth's climate, the nature of bogus arguments we see is evolving.

Mounting evidence of rapid and acutely hazardous climate change now and in the future  is in plain view. Scientific consensus on climate change leads to societal consilience and broad agreement that change is necessary. Old-fashioned science denial no longer functions in our "mood of the room."  To the extent legacy energy industries are able to shape events, tactical shifts are called for to support the strategic goal of prolonging monetization of fossil fuels. 

Again, delay is profit. 

Unsurprisingly given the history we've lived— and what we'd thus fully expect to see as a continuum— we're now encountering freshly invented and refined sticking points and evasive maneuvers prolonging the monetization window for fossil fuels, features formally termed "discourses of climate delay" (Lamb et al. 2020).  Some of these tactics are not within the reach of Skeptical Science's toolbox and are better handled elsewhere. However, other discourses of delay are amenable to being yanked back into reality by reattachment to primary sources.

For Skeptical Science, "primary source" translates to "peer reviewed research publications." Tactical manifestation of solutions denial found in claims such as "EVs pollute more than IC-powered vehicles," or "[exciting but nonexistent technology] will solve our problems" can often be shown as empty arguments from the standpoint of science. 

The same unholy alliance between industrial interests and ideological predilections especially pertains as we confront our need for climate remedy.  Effective climate mitigation (aka "solutions") may require intervention by regulation, awakening ideological opposition, and thereby producing a loud chorus of "wrong." Ideologically-rooted arguments against confronting our climate problem are susceptible of exposure by comparison with what science tells us from a perspective of ideological neutrality.

Outcome and future direction

Not long ago, Bärbel Winkler introduced discourses of climate delay as a subject area of focus for Skeptical Science. Since that initial foray, we've spent more time discussing this in terms of how it stacks up in our priorities. It's a high priority; confusion over mitigation of our climate impacts is dangerous and needs to be handled in an organized fashion. Consequently:

  • We'll be tweaking our mission statement and our activities to include discourses of climate delay and climate solutions denial amenable to grounding in academic research in our remit.
  • We're creating an initial set of rebuttals for common misconceptions about "climate solutions.
  • Our initial choices for treatment will be driven by data from formal research and as well by "reading the room." 

This process leads to an opportunity to seek help from our readers.

Question to readers

Which "discourses of climate delay" do you think we should prioritize? Which misconceptions of solution denial do you often hear repeated? Let us know in comments here, or via our contact form.



Skeptical Science New Research for Week #24 2022

Posted on 16 June 2022 by Doug Bostrom, Marc Kodack

Mercenary army of bogus skeptics on parade

Because they're both squarely centered in the Skeptical Science wheelhouse, this week we're highlighting two articles from our government and NGO section, where we collect high-quality articles not originating in academic research but featuring many of the important attributes of journal publications. Our mission after all is to clear away the dense fog of motivated reasoning and self-interest misidentified as "climate science skepticism," and both of these publications hit the bulls-eye in that regard. 

Each report is accompanied by a precis it would be pointless to paraphrase.

Deny, Deceive, Delay: Documenting and Responding to Climate Disinformation at Cop26 and Beyond by King et al., Institute for Strategic Dialogue

Drawing on research compiled over the past 18 months, and especially in the margins and aftermath of COP26, the authors have clear evidence of the challenge at hand: the failure to stem mis- and disinformation online has allowed junk science, climate delayism and attacks on climate figures to become mainstreamed. The analysis shows how a small but dedicated community of actors boast disproportionate reach and engagement across social media, reaching millions of people worldwide and bolstered by legacy print, broadcast and radio outlets. Far from helping to mitigate this issue, tech platform systems appear to be amplifying or exacerbating the spread of such content. Moreover, the taxonomy of harm relating to climate mis- and disinformation has been poorly defined to date, providing an inadequate basis for response. The report is a collective effort to quantify the problem and establish concrete responses for the months and years ahead. It is a data-driven examination of the landscape, actors, systems and approaches that are combining to prevent action on climate. [full PDF here

Southern Company Knew. How a “clean coal” utility was warned about climate change risks years before it funded climate disinformation 1964-2022 by Anderson, Kasper & Tait, Energy and Policy Institute

A growing body of academic research and investigative reporting has documented how major fossil fuel producers, utilities, and automakers knew more than fifty years ago that carbon dioxide emissions could cause harmful climate change in the future. Despite these early warnings, many of these powerful companies later backed disinformation campaigns against climate science and policies. The report documents for the first time the nearly 60-year history of one of those vested interests, Southern Company, on climate change from the mid-1960s through present day. One of the nation’s largest electric and gas utilities, Southern Company’s origins date back nearly a century. Part one of the report documents how as far back as 1964, Southern Company was privy to early warnings about the climate risks of burning fossil fuels. Part two details how Southern Company has played a leading role in the spread of climate disinformation since the late 1980s. [full PDF here]

Other notables

Exceptional warming over the Barents area. "We identify a statistically significant record-high annual warming of up to 2.7 °C per decade, with a maximum in autumn of up to 4.0 °C per decade." Enough said. 

Impact of Rocket Launch and Space Debris Air Pollutant Emissions on Stratospheric Ozone and Global Climate. For decades we've been launching rockets and creating a gentle sifting of dust from decaying spacecraft at a rate that isn't a serious threat. With burgeoning of LEO communications constellations and myriad short-lived microsatellites being lofted— many involving solid fuel boosters— our period of relative calm is coming to an end. What goes up must come down, and while it does some of it causes trouble. Ryan et al. do the numbers and suggest that regulatory interventions may be necessary. 

The impact of renewables on the incidents of negative prices in the energy spot markets. Energy that costs less than nothing? Sounds great! But, "if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is" and in reality we can't support energy generation systems with "anti-money." The success of renewable energy deployment in conjunction with other factors exposing and creating outcomes that were not  unexpected but are arriving more swiftly and strongly than anticipated. Oleksandr Prokhorov & Dina Dreisbach investigate.

Why scientists succeed yet their organizations splinter: Historical and social network analyses of policy advocacy in conservation. Some criticize scientists from the odd perspective that if one sees a fire but is not part of the fire department, one should not attack the problem and definitely not dislose the location of a firehose. This warped view has nothing real to worry about, given empirical data. How does it happen that a group of people seeing and agreeing on a problem can fail to convey their helpful message? Researcher Zoe Nyssa takes a look.  

171 articles in 54 journals by 851 contributing authors

Physical science of climate change, effects

Relating Patterns of Added and Redistributed Ocean Warming
Newsom et al., Journal of Climate, 10.1175/jcli-d-21-0827.1

Separating the shortwave and longwave components of greenhouse gas radiative forcing
Shine et al., Atmospheric Science Letters, 10.1002/asl.1116

The Time-Dependent Response of a Two-Basin Ocean to a Sudden Surface Temperature Change
Chang & Jansen, Journal of Climate, 10.1175/jcli-d-21-0821.1

Observations of climate change, effects

Exceptional warming over the Barents area
Isaksen et al., Scientific Reports, Open Access pdf 10.1038/s41598-022-13568-5

Effects of Tropical Sea Surface Temperature Variability on Northern Hemisphere Tropical Cyclone Genesis
Li et al., Journal of Climate, 10.1175/jcli-d-21-0084.1



The most reliable hurricane models, based on their 2021 performance

Posted on 15 June 2022 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Jeff Masters

For those puzzling over the various hurricane computer forecast models to figure out which one to believe, the best answer is: Don’t believe any of them. Put your trust in the National Hurricane Center, or NHC, forecast.

Although an individual model may outperform the official NHC forecast in some situations, the 2021 National Hurricane Center Forecast Verification Report documents that overall, it is very difficult for any one model to consistently beat the NHC forecasts for track and for intensity.

Figure 1 - NHC official track error trendFigure 1. Verification of official NHC hurricane track forecasts for the Atlantic, 1990 – 2021. (Image credit: 2021 National Hurricane Center Forecast Verification Report)

During the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, NHC track forecasts had accuracies near or better than the five-year average, with two-day and three-day track forecasts setting new records for accuracy. Over the past 30 years, one- to three-day track forecast errors have been reduced by about 75%; over the past 20 years, four-day and five-day track forecast errors by 50 – 60%. Those numbers amount to an extraordinary accomplishment, one undoubtedly leading to huge savings in lives, damage, and emotional angst. The improvement in track forecast accuracy has slowed down in recent years, however, suggesting that forecasts may be nearing their limit in accuracy because of the chaotic nature of the atmosphere.



Young people care about things that matter

Posted on 14 June 2022 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Scott Denning

The excellent Julia Steinberger essay posted at this site in May provides a disturbing window into the psychology of teaching climate change to young people. 

It’s critically important to talk with youth about hard topics: love and sex, deadly contagion, school shootings, vicious unprovoked war in Europe, climate change. Everybody wrestles with these subjects. It’s worse than useless to pretend there are easy answers, and it helps to be open about ambiguity.

I had a GREAT visit to Chatfield High School in Littleton, Colorado, the day Steinberger’s essay was posted. Several of these students were among about 300 who attended a “Climate Leadership Summit” for high schools in Colorado last month.

These students were deeply traumatized by being locked away from their peers and mentors for two years just as they emerged from adolescence into early adulthood. They’re well aware that their lives will be burdened by heat and drought and wildfire and also by the scourges of violence and hate (Chatfield is a neighbor to Columbine High School less than two miles away). It was a lovely spring day, with the young rising seniors in their last week of school before summer.

I was very much struck in Steinberger’s article by two phrases: She had a “classic, boilerplate climate presentation, full of IPCC figures and facts and quotes.” This is an all-too-frequent framing for climate outreach. I prefer to speak form the heart, from personal experience, and to invoke students’ own experiences rather than any academic authority. Also “It’s always ‘3 years to save the planet’ but then nothing changes.” This is a hugely consequential “doomer” meme that we must confront head on.



A durable U.S. climate strategy … or a house of cards?

Posted on 13 June 2022 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Richard Richels, Benjamin Santer, Henry Jacoby, and Gary Yohe

Just when it seemed that real progress might be made on climate change, war has pushed climate concerns to the back burner. This shift in focus is understandable. War is affecting millions in Ukraine and poses a growing threat to global security. But it’s dangerous to leave the climate change problem untended, simmering away on the back burner. Like war, human-caused warming also poses an escalating threat to human lives, livelihoods, well-being, and the stability of democratic systems of governance. Things left out of sight and untended on a hot stove can combust.

Our global society does not have the luxury of being able to focus on only one threat at a time. Threats are intertwined, synergistic. Today’s petro-dictators, using oil money to finance war, are intent on enhancing rather than diminishing reliance on fossil fuels. Fossil carbon is their life support system. Its continued use also adds to emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, imperiling our planetary life support system.

The bottom line is that we must pay attention to the many threats to human wellbeing boiling over on the war burner, the global pandemic burner, and the climate change burner. And now, at least for the U.S. in the aftermath of the horrifying string of mass murders in Buffalo and Uvalde (list could go on), we cannot forget the “guns” burner. The price of freedom, human health, and planetary health is constant vigilance on these and many more issues.

Stopping greenhouse gas pollution will require a complete transformation of the way the global community produces and uses energy. We cannot achieve that goal without sustained efforts on many fronts: technological, scientific, socioeconomic and political. In a world beset with multiple threats, the challenge is to carve out a durable climate strategy – one that can withstand the distractions of other critical, but inevitably shorter-term, crises.



2022 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #23

Posted on 12 June 2022 by BaerbelW

Listing of articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, June 5, 2022 through Sat, June 11, 2022.

The following articles sparked above average interest during the week (bolded articles are from SkS authors): The Future of Energy Storage, Are climate models wrong? (Naomi Seibt & Christopher Monckton Debunked)Fidelity’s Fossil Fuel Problem, Russia sanctions and gas price crisis reveal danger of investing in 'blue' hydrogen, and The Southern Ocean is changing. Why does it matter?.

Articles Linked to on Facebook



Skeptical Science New Research for Week #23 2022

Posted on 9 June 2022 by Doug Bostrom, Marc Kodack

Terms and conditions may change

For myriad reasons we'd like to think and know that dumping our outmoded and dangerous fossil fuel energy sources may be difficult and may require a lot of investment but that when we're done, we'll be back to business as usual in terms of what we expect to pay for the energy to do useful work. However, our expectations are quite arguably warped by our good fortune; we stumbled upon a trove of ridiculously inexpensive previously stored energy and have consequently shaped our entire perspective as though winning the lottery was a daily occurrence. 

The authors are looking only at cost impacts of reaching net zero by 2050 and so are not prognosticating what we might expect 100 or 200 years from now, or any such reasonable time-frame for people with the inkling of conscience needed to reject nihilism about our future. Even so, Zhuo et al. perhaps offer some indications of what's to come in their scrupulously calculated and highly granular assessment Cost increase in the electricity supply to achieve carbon neutrality in China. While there are of course differences in the mix of individual country electrical generation systems, the starting points  and decarbonization scenarios employed in this paper are not so special to China that we cannot plausibly hypothesize from their results how electricity in general might not be as weirdly and artificially cheap as we've trained oursevles to expect. For China, the research team estimates that costs will rise by some 9.6 CNY¢/kWh (US $0.15/kWh) in order to reach carbon neutrality. As the authors say in other words, it's not an existential threat but it's going to leave a bit of a bruise on the collective wallet.

On the fully bright side, electricity cost increases will eventually level off after which we're left with a durable, permanent improvement in our welfare, rather than bovinely following the inexorable decline of our briefly beneficial but also nearly permanently disastrous fossil fuel lash-up. How much of a subsequent decline to levels more resembling our "abnormally cheap" current state of bliss we may expect is another matter to explore. 

Parenthetically, this is yet another in a steady torrent of papers authored by researchers practicing in China and who are directly confronting climate change as an operational challenge needing solid backgrounding for policy planning purposes. Doubtless this is a better approach than paralytic quavering in denial, ignorance and fear. 

Other notables:

What shapes cognitions of climate change in Europe? Ideology, morality, and the role of educational attainment. We've heard about Left/Right differences in perceptions of climate change, but we shouldn't be surprised to hear that packages with different wrapping may contain similar objects. The first thing we learn is often not quite the whole picture when witnesses and storytellers themselves are new to a topic.  This paper goes a bit beyond othe recent research and peels away ideological identity and looks at underlying factors shaping our beliefs.

New York State Hurricane Hazard: History and Future Projections. Due to limitations in our models the picture is still somewhat hazy, but our best ability to form projections of hurricane behavior in this populous state indicates "more intense and traveling more slowly" by late in this century. Given the damage profile caused by hurricanes which is mostly to do with water, "slower" is especially not good.

The risks from climate change to sovereign debt. The world of research pertaining to goverment finance is at least slightly roiled now thanks to attempts to demythologize economics and update "the dismal science" with hard-earned information gleaned by comparing untethered abstract models with  observed real world facts about what money is and where it comes from. Regardless of whether our thinking is that of 100 years ago or today, the impacts of climate change on national economies unfolds as quite large. This paper looks at how climate change will wreak havoc in state finances as viewed from a more tradtional "sovereign debt" perspective. 

Quantifying the influence of climate variability on armed conflict in Africa, 2000–2015 explores via empirical data the contentious hypothesis that climate change will contribute to armed conflict. Unfortunately, we have enough real-world data to test this, to the extent that we can isolate a climate signal from the complex factors leading to organized violence. By indications from their chosen array of methods to tease apart the rotten combinations leading to warfare, the authors identify such a signal in this paper. 

All of the above open access and free to read. This week's government/NGO section can be found here and sports a collection of items concerning reliable water supplies in the face of climate change. See California, USA for a high-profile right-now example of  "adaptation" to climatological drought in the absence of a long term plan.

167 articles in 60 journals by 986 contributing authors

Physical science of climate change, effects

The role of atmospheric blocking in regulating Arctic warming
You et al., Geophysical Research Letters, Open Access pdf 10.1029/2022gl097899

Turbulent structure of the Arctic boundary layer in early summer driven by stability, wind shear and cloud top radiative cooling: ACLOUD airborne observations
Chechin et al. Open Access pdf 10.5194/acp-2022-398

Which Is the More Effective Driver of the Poleward Eddy Heat Flux Variability: Zonal Gradient of Tropical Convective Heating or Equator-to-Pole Temperature Gradient?
Mous, Predictability and Nonlinear Modelling in Natural Sciences and Economics, Open Access 10.1007/978-94-011-0962-8_8

Observations of climate change, effects

Long-term trends in extreme precipitation indices in Ireland
Ryan et al., International Journal of Climatology, Open Access pdf 10.1002/joc.7475

Spatiotemporal variation of precipitation on a global scale from 1960 to 2016 in a new normalized daily precipitation dataset
Liu et al., International Journal of Climatology, 10.1002/joc.7437



The Consensus Project Website


(free to republish)

© Copyright 2022 John Cook
Home | Translations | About Us | Privacy | Contact Us